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NewsBites July 2015 Issue

Supplement Disclaimers Make Little Impact

Consumers mostly ignore disclaimers on dietary supplements and erroneously believe the government warrants such products to be safe and effective, according to a review of 11 studies on the subject. Most products sold under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) carry a small-print notice about their claims such as, “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Under DSHEA, so-called “dietary supplements” are regulated differently than medicines or drugs, with the manufacturer and not the FDA responsible for safety and effectiveness. But the recent review, published in Health Affairs, found many consumers unaware of that distinction and unaffected by disclaimers.

Overall, consumers either failed to notice the disclaimers or reported that the notices did not change their view of the product. There was little difference in consumer perceptions in random tests of products with or without a disclaimer. Many continued to believe the FDA had evaluated the product even after being shown a disclaimer to the contrary. In surveys, a similar disconnect was found. The largest survey, of 3,500 adults, found that 48.8% of self-identified supplement users and 45% of non-users agreed with the incorrect statement, “Appetite suppressants, herbal products, and weight loss supplements must be approved for efficacy, or effectiveness, by a government agency like the FDA before they can be sold to the public.”

For more on such products, see our April Special Supplement.

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